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TX_Houston_Southeast_PE_NS_2008

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					                                  Southeast Corridor BRT
                                           Houston, Texas
                                          (November 2006)

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) is proposing a 6.0-mile bus rapid transit
(BRT) system from the current Main Street light rail transit (LRT) system in Houston’s central business
district (CBD) to the Palm Center park-and-ride near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Boulevard. The
BRT line would provide fixed guideway transit service to the University of Houston-Downtown, Texas
Southern University, and the Texas Medical Center (TMC). Approximately 4.1 miles would operate at-
grade in exclusive guideway and 0.1 miles of aerial guideway; the remainder would be in a reserved lane
and mixed traffic at intersections where buses would get priority treatment. BRT service would operate
with peak-hour headways of six minutes. The project is the first phase of a 13-mile rapid transit line from
the CBD to William P. Hobby Airport.
The corridor extends from the CBD to the vicinity of MLK Boulevard at Palm Center and is bounded by
Interstate Highway 45 on the east, US Route 59/State Highway 288 on the west, and Almeda-Genoa Road
on the south. Existing freeways, particularly north of IH-610, require “out of direction” travel adding to
the length of the trip. Travel in the corridor is focused on the few existing north-south and east-west
arterials. Current transit service operates on the same network of arterials. Traffic congestion impedes
bus service to/from the corridor’s major activity centers. Bus service is often circuitous and the number
of stops so frequent that bus travel times are not competitive with auto travel. The volume of METRO
buses operating in downtown compounds traffic problems. During peak periods, buses queue to
load/unload riders, causing severe service reliability problems, increased travel times for CBD
commuters, and constrained METRO operations in the CBD. Projected travel demand growth would
exacerbate these conditions if planned transit improvements are not implemented. The corridor
constitutes only five percent of METRO’s service area, but includes 25 percent of METRO’s local bus
riders. The area has a high proportion of zero-car households and persons under 18 and over 64 years of
age – transit-dependent populations. The project is intended to result in improved transit service and
reliability for these travel markets.

                                      Summary Description
                              Proposed Project: Bus Rapid Transit
                                                 6.0 Miles
                                                 11 Stations
                     Total Capital Cost ($YOE): $169.84 Million
         Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE): $84.75 Million (49.8%)
   Annual Forecast Year Operating Cost ($YOE): $7.75 Million
                      Ridership Forecast (2030): 13,900 Average Weekday Boardings
                                                 3,300 Daily New Riders
       Opening Year Ridership Forecast (2012): 8,300 Average Weekday Boardings
   FY 2008 Local Financial Commitment Rating: Medium
           FY 2008 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
                FY 2008 Overall Project Rating: Medium
METRO intends to utilize a hybrid project delivery method. A Facility Provider team of engineering,
construction management and vehicle firms will complete design, finalize the construction phasing



Preliminary Engineering                                                                             A-193
Southeast Corridor BRT                                                                      Houston, Texas

approach, and expedite construction of a number of rapid transit improvements throughout Houston.
METRO and FTA are working closely to facilitate this unique project implementation approach.

Project Development History and Current Status
METRO completed an alternatives analysis study on the Southeast-Universities-Hobby Corridor in
November 2003. LRT was the locally preferred alternative (LPA). The Southeast Corridor is included in
the 2025 METRO Solutions Plan that was passed by Houston-area voters in November 2003. The Plan
allows METRO to issue up to $640 million in bonds to fund transit system expansion projects. In April
2005 FTA approved the Southeast Corridor LRT into preliminary engineering (PE). In August 2005,
METRO notified FTA of its intent to build and operate a BRT line in the Southeast Corridor as an interim
step towards LRT implementation, with BRT designed for conversion to LRT by 2030. METRO issued a
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), including a “convertible” BRT alternative, in July 2006,
and formally adopted BRT as the preferred alternative in September 2006. After an evaluation of the
project’s benefits and costs and confirmation that all local and Federal requirements were met, FTA
conferred PE status to the Southeast Corridor BRT project in October 2006. METRO is developing a
Final EIS and is expected to request final design entry in late Spring 2007.

Significant Changes Since FY 2007 Evaluation (November 2005)
In addition to the change of scope from LRT to BRT, METRO completed a series of travel model and
transportation network enhancements and developed a 2030 travel forecast, resulting in a revised estimate
of the project’s user benefits.

Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
The project is rated Medium-High for project justification based on a High rating for cost effectiveness
and a Medium rating for the project’s transit-supportive land use.

Cost Effectiveness Rating: High
The High cost effectiveness rating reflects the level of travel-time benefits (3,800 hours each weekday,
plus special events) relative to the project’s annualized costs.

                                                 Cost Effectiveness
                                                                          New Start vs. Baseline
Cost per Hour of Transportation System User Benefit                             $11.38*
Incremental Cost per Incremental Trip                                            $16.46
* Indicates that measure is a component of Cost Effectiveness rating.

Nearly 25 percent of Southeast Corridor households do not have access to an automobile. While the
existing transit system provides the corridor’s transit-dependent population with access to the CBD, the
universities, and the TMC areas, the service operates at low speeds and is subject to the same delays as
auto traffic. The limited service levels and reliability restrict mobility and reduce residents’ access to
jobs. Travel forecasts demonstrate travel-time benefits to three key markets. The first includes transit
riders commuting mostly within the IH-610 area, the CBD, TMC, and universities’ areas from the
corridor’s heavily transit-dependent population (households with incomes less than $15,000). These
riders generate approximately 45 percent of travel-time benefits. The second market includes other
corridor transit riders taking advantage of improved access to the CBD and core activity centers. About
25 percent of benefits are attributable to this market. The remaining benefits accrue to riders from the
north and northwest within IH-610 whose travel times to the universities’ area are improved via BRT
service. The BRT would also provide travel-time benefits for riders traveling to sports stadia and cultural
attractions on the CBD’s southern edge via transfer to the existing Main Street LRT.
The capital cost estimate, including contingencies, is considered reliable at this stage of development.
However, the project’s development schedule is aggressive, and may be difficult to achieve.

A- 194                                                                            Preliminary Engineering
Southeast Corridor BRT                                                       Houston, Texas



Transit-Supportive Land Use Rating: Medium
The rating is based upon the Medium ratings assigned to existing land use and the performance and
impacts of land use policies which offset the Medium-Low rating for transit-supportive policies.

Existing Land Use: Medium
     The corridor penetrates downtown Houston. Current total employment within a ½-mile of all
        station areas is 147,900.
     Current total employment for the entire Houston CBD is estimated at over 156,000.
     Existing population density within the entire corridor, the number of persons per square mile, is
        low to moderate (4,300 persons/square mile).
     The majority of station areas exhibit moderate to low population densities. The land use
        character of the Southeast Corridor ranges from an intensive mixed-use downtown – with several
        of the nation’s tallest buildings – to a much more auto-oriented, suburban style of development
        around the corridor’s two outermost stations.
     Many jobs located in the CBD are near planned station areas. Two major universities (Texas
        Southern University and the University of Houston-Downtown) with a combined enrollment of
        44,000 students are served by the corridor.

Transit-Supportive Plans and Policies: Medium-Low
    There are no coordinated regional growth management policies. The Houston-Galveston Area
       Council’s (local MPO) policy documents include goals related to denser, more transit-oriented
       development patterns. The Houston area’s rapid population increases and sprawl have
       contributed to an interest in growth planning, but specific initiatives have not been undertaken at
       the regional level.
    Plans for the downtown and east downtown areas have focused on pedestrian improvements and
       increasing the mix of residential and other non-office uses. Neighborhood plans define general
       objectives for increasing the pedestrian friendliness and transit orientation of development, but
       implementation mechanisms other than funding for infrastructure are limited. Local university-
       area land use plans will increase density in two planned station areas.
    The city of Houston is not zoned. Private deed restrictions are often used to ensure that standards
       for land use are maintained, although enforcement has lapsed in some Southeast Corridor
       neighborhoods. The city may choose to reduce parking requirements in areas where demand can
       be met through means other than off-street parking, and will consider reductions in the Southeast
       Corridor. There are no parking requirements for downtown projects.
    METRO initiated station area planning activities with stakeholders and design teams as part of
       preliminary engineering for the Southeast Corridor to ensure that station designs, area land uses,
       and area plans are complementary, following a similar public outreach effort that was used for the
       existing Main Street LRT. The entire corridor is within city or State-designated districts that
       provide funding mechanisms for infrastructure improvements.

Performance and Impacts of Policies: Medium
    Changes to development patterns, including pedestrian- and transit-oriented design features, are
       evident in the downtown Houston and Midtown areas along the existing Main Street LRT. In
       contrast, several projects under construction or planned near the outermost Southeast Corridor
       stations appear less transit-supportive, with auto-oriented suburban-style designs.
    The station areas within the Southeast Corridor offer plentiful sites for development, especially
       on the eastern side of the CBD. Small and large vacant lots are available in proximity to other
       proposed transit stations and major roadway corridors.



Preliminary Engineering                                                                           A-195
Southeast Corridor BRT                                                                        Houston, Texas



Other Project Justification Criteria
                Mobility Improvements Rating: Medium-High
Within ½-mile radius of boarding areas:
   Existing Employment                                                             147,900
   Projected Employment (2030)                                                     189,800
   Low Income Households (% of total HH)                                         2,600 (36%)

Average Per Station:
   Employment                                                                       17,300*
   Low Income Households                                                             200*

                                                                            New Start vs. Baseline
Transportation System User Benefit Per Project
Passenger Mile (Minutes)                                                             7.30*

                                 Environmental Benefits Rating: High
Criteria Pollutant (Reduction in tons)                                      New Start vs. Baseline
    Carbon Monoxide (CO)                                                             15
    Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)                                                              1
    Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)                                                  1
    Particulate Matter (PM10)                                                         0
    Carbon Dioxide (CO2)                                                           3,500

Criteria Pollutant Status                                                     EPA Designation
    8-Hour Ozone (O3)                                                   Moderate Non-Attainment Area*

Annual Energy Savings (million British Thermal Units)                                44,700

                                Operating Efficiencies Rating: Medium
                                                                         Baseline             New Start
System Operating Cost per
Passenger Mile (current year dollars)                                     $0.182*              $0.182*

* Indicates that measure is a component of rating for each criterion.
N/A indicates information was not available for this entry.




A- 196                                                                              Preliminary Engineering
Southeast Corridor BRT                                                                      Houston, Texas


Local Financial Commitment Rating: Medium
The Medium rating for local financial commitment is based on Medium ratings for the New Starts share of
project costs and for both the capital and operating finance plans.

Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs: 50%
Rating: Medium
METRO is requesting just under a 50 percent New Starts share of total project costs, which results in a
Medium rating for this measure.

                                  Locally Proposed Financial Plan
Source of Funds                                    Total Funds ($million)                     Percent of Total

Federal:
Section 5309 New Starts                                                     $84.75                               49.8%

Local:
METRO Dedicated Sales Tax                                                   $85.09                               50.2%

Total:                                                                     $169.84                              100.0%
NOTE: The financial plan reflected in this table has been developed by the project sponsor and does not reflect a commitment
by DOT or FTA. The sum of the figures may differ from total as listed due to rounding.


Capital Finance Plan Rating: Medium
The capital finance plan is rated Medium. The capital condition, commitment of capital funds, and capital
funding capacity subfactors received High ratings. The completeness of the capital plan was rated
Medium, while the capital cost estimates and planning assumptions subfactor received a Medium-Low
rating. The average of these ratings is Medium-High, but the rating has been lowered to Medium, because
of the Medium-Low rating for the capital cost estimates and planning assumptions subfactor.

Agency Capital Condition: High
    The average age of METRO’s bus fleet is six years, which is younger than the industry average.
    METRO has no outstanding debt. Therefore, no bond ratings have been issued.
Completeness of Capital Plan: Medium
   The capital plan was reasonably complete and included a 25-year cash flow statement, more than
      five years of historical data, identification of key assumptions, a moderate level of detail, and a
      sensitivity analysis. The plan was missing some explanatory details, including a breakdown of
      capital revenues and costs by source and project. These items were shown only in the aggregate.

Commitment of Capital Funds: High
   METRO’s sales tax revenues, which are existing and committed, will cover the entire non-New
     Starts share of the North Corridor BRT project.

Capital Funding Capacity: High
    The project’s financial plan shows projected cash balances, reserve accounts, and/or access to
       credit that would allow METRO to cover cost increases or funding shortfalls equal to at least
       50 percent of project costs.




Preliminary Engineering                                                                                              A-197
Southeast Corridor BRT                                                                      Houston, Texas

Capital Cost Estimate and Planning Assumptions: Medium-Low
    Assumptions on sales tax growth and Federal funding are optimistic compared to historical
       experience.
    The capital cost estimate is considered current and reliable. The project’s contingency is
       adequate for this stage of development. METRO’s project delivery approach is innovative but
       assumes an aggressive schedule which carries some risk.

Operating Finance Plan Rating: Medium
The operating finance plan is rated Medium, based upon the average of the ratings of the five subfactors
listed below. The current operating condition and the commitment of operating funds were rated High;
operating funding capacity was rated Medium-High; completeness of the operating plan was rated
Medium; and the operating cost estimates and planning assumptions subfactor received a Medium-Low
rating.
Agency Operating Condition: High
    METRO’s current ratio of assets to liabilities, as reported in its most recent audited financial
      statements, is 2.2.
    METRO’s transit services have increased in the last five years, despite a decline in ridership due
      to a downturn in regional economic growth.

Completeness of Operating Plan: Medium
   The operating plan was reasonably complete and included a 25-year cash flow statement, more
      than five years of historical data, identification of key assumptions, a moderate level of detail, and
      a sensitivity analysis. The plan was missing explanatory detail related to existing versus new
      services.
Commitment of Operating Funds: High
   All operating funding, includes fare revenues, sales tax revenues, operating grants, miscellaneous
     revenue (advertising and ID card fees), and interest income, is considered committed.
Operating Funding Capacity: Medium-High
    The project’s financial plan shows projected cash balances, reserve accounts, and/or access to
       credit exceeding 25 percent of annual operating expenses.
Operating Cost Estimates and Planning Assumptions: Medium-Low
    Assumptions on operating cost growth, ridership growth, and farebox revenues are optimistic
       compared to historical experience.




A- 198                                                                            Preliminary Engineering
Southeast Corridor BRT    Houston, Texas


Map




Preliminary Engineering                    A-199
Southeast Corridor BRT            Houston, Texas




A- 200                   Preliminary Engineering

				
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